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What is a book coach and do I need to hire one?

Learn about the benefits of working with a book coach and how it can take your writing to another level.

What is coaching?

Coaching, in its various forms, has been around for centuries. Whether it's in sports, education, or the world of work and leadership, a coach is there to guide, advise and nurture – and the same is true of book coaching. In the world of writing this may include guiding a writer through the process of completing their first draft, or offering advice on the book market and the various routes to publishing a book. It could include tackling specific challenges such as developing believable and relatable characters. Whatever the focus, a coach is a critical friend, a guide, a motivator – someone who can work through the obstacles with you.

Why hire a coach?

Evidence suggests that there are three reasons why people might choose to work with a coach, and these apply to book coaching just as they might to any other field:

  1. To hear the truth

  2. To have a sounding board

  3. To have accountability

Let's take a look at each of these in turn to see how it applies to the world of writing.

1. The Truth

Have you ever read the acknowledgements page in the back of a book? Do it. It's delightfully heart-warming! It's sometimes the first thing I read when starting a new book. Not only do the acknowledgements show you the vast number of people that it takes to bring a story from concept to published book, it also gives you an idea of the roles each of these people play. From agents to publishers, beta readers to editors, it is mind boggling how many people can be integral to the process. And without fail, there will always be an acknowledgement of the role played by friends and family, whether appreciation for reading the manuscript through, offering feedback at various stages, putting up with a stressed and anxious writer in the family, or simply providing copious cups of tea during the writing process.

So, why consider hiring a book coach when you could simply ask friends and family for help? Frankly, I think it's important to involve friends and family – they are often a great source of support and feedback, and it can really help to show them why you've been holed up in isolation for six months. It can be especially helpful if those you share it with are in your target audience – they can then become a beta reader for your novel, giving their views as your intended readership.

However, friends and family aren't always the best source of feedback and guidance. Why? Because they are often too kind for what we really need! While receiving praise and adoration from loved ones makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside, it doesn't tell us what we actually need to hear. And what we really need to hear is the truth. If our characters are unbelievable, we need to know about it. If there is a stinking great plot hole in the second act, we need to know about it. If the book lacks pace, tension and conflict, we really need to know about it.

A coach is there to tell you the truth, to help you identify the weaknesses in your story, and help you work out how to fix the problems. Don't worry – we deliver the truth in a very encouraging way! Our goal is to build excellent relationships with the writers we work with, valuing honesty in the guidance we give. Your coach is rooting for you and your novel and is willing to give the honest feedback you need to help you achieve your writing goals.

Becky's coaching sessions were just what I needed to get my novel back on track.

2. A Sounding Board

Perhaps you've completed your first draft, had an initial read through, and you can tell instantly that it is lacking in conflict. You have some ideas about how to fix that, perhaps by introducing a new character, or layering the story with a tension-filled subplot. But to even find out if these new ideas will have the desired effect, it will take a lot of work and time to edit and rework the first draft. You may be happy doing this yourself, giving it a go and honing your story in the process. Great! Alternatively, you may want to run the ideas past an objective reader.

Writing can be a solitary experience, often spending hours on your own with only your characters for company, but big decisions about your story can be daunting and often need talking through. Having someone to bounce ideas off, with whom you can thrash out the problems and find paths round the obstacles, can make all the difference when trying to maintain your writing momentum.

A book coach can walk through different scenarios with you, plotting out the changes and discussing which might work best. Your coach can challenge you to look at things from a different angle, to consider new solutions that you wouldn't have previously considered. The final decision is still all yours, but you've had the opportunity to talk over a range of possibilities before making that decision.

Your coach is also an expert. They understand writing theory and craft, the art of querying an agent, and the challenges writers face on a daily basis. A good coach will be well read, able to direct you to examples of excellent theory and best practice. Using your coach as a sounding board with very specific expertise will help you push your writing to the next level.

They managed to identify what was holding me back and challenged me to face tricky questions.

3. Accountability

It's all too easy in the fog of daily life to prioritise everything else but our writing. The house needs cleaning, clothes need to be ironed, packed lunches made, dogs walked, shelves put up, friends visited. Whatever it might be, there are many, many things that could take us away from our novel. Oftentimes, this is purely procrastination, or 'ostriching'. Writing can be hard; saying we don't have time for it because of everything else that needs to be done is an easy out, a simple way to avoid the hard slog of writing. Having a book coach who will set you goals, who is expecting the next instalment of your work in progress, is a great motivator. There is a target, there is a deadline, there is a purpose.

Setting yourself challenging but realistic goals for your writing is a great idea. Writing without specific goals may suit some writers, allowing them time to free-write and express thoughts and emotions as they arise, but it is not right for everyone. For many writers this simply becomes aimless and can lead to long periods without making much progress. Setting goals with your coach based on your current progress, specific challenges, and desired deadlines can ensure that you are writing with both intention and direction.

Being accountable to someone also drives us to develop good writing habits. Finding regular times to write, perhaps even only a few minutes at a time, compels us to engage with our work in progress on a more regular basis. Habits aren't formed overnight, they are developed over time. A book coach will help you identify these desirable habits and build this into your coaching sessions.

They gave me the tools to tackle my novel as a real piece of work, not just something to write when I took the fancy.

Should I hire a coach?

The beauty of hiring a coach is that each session can be tailored to your very specific writing needs. We focus on flexibility, honesty, and transparency to make sure you enjoy the best coaching experience possible. But the choice of whether to hire a coach is a very personal one. Some writers are very content with the process of working solo on a project, or already have a superb network around them. Others prefer the added support of a dedicated coach, bringing an intense focus to their work in progress. But whether or not you decide to work with a book coach, our advice to you remains the same: stay focused, believe in yourself and your book, and never give up.

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